At the Vogue Theatre on Sunday, March 16. Continues on March 17
There’s such a proliferation of comics these days, it’s impossible to keep up. One can’t possibly listen to all the albums and specials and podcasts of just the funny people you like, let alone all the others you know you should check out or would adore if you just gave them a thorough hearing.
Bill Burr falls in that category for me. I’ve known of him for years, watched some clips online, heard the odd hilarious track from his CDs, and seen snippets of his TV specials. And I liked them all. I just never took the time to sit down and absorb an hour’s worth at a time. Shame on me. His 82-minute set at the Vogue Theatre on Sunday was so good, so smart, and so raw, at least now I can go back and experience his older work with fresh ears. Jealous?
The problem with the odd sampling is you reduce a performer to an easy descriptor. The 45-year-old Bostonian is a fiery ranter, an angry Everyman. Turns out he’s so much deeper than that. For one, he’s quite likable on stage, whether he’s railing about nerds, defending the Duck Dynasty homophobe, or refusing to sleep on the couch after a fight with his wife. His logic, while sometimes twisted, is pretty understandable and relatable. He also doesn’t come across as a just-telling-it-like-it-is blowhard. He hedges a bit, reminding us these are just his opinions, and you sense he means it.
He sets himself apart from other perpetually ticked-off standups with a vulnerability that shines through the negativity. He’s angry at the “bitchy noises” coming from a fellow male passenger during an overly turbulent flight not because he himself is a man’s man, but because that fearful flier is an audible reminder to all that all men are just macho posers. Burr prefers the façade. Play your role and we’ll all get through life with minimum turmoil.
After exposing his own in-flight terror, and laying out his hotel ritual to stave off an attack from an unwanted intruder or escape a fire, it was funny to hear him say he never thinks about death, which is demonstrably untrue given the earlier bits. His chunk on why he doesn’t want life insurance was nevertheless beautifully thought out. Why give his wife extra incentive to off him? These aren’t hit-and-run jokes he tosses off but material he’s lived with and examined from every angle. You really get to the heart of the matter and know exactly where he stands, and why. There’s an intelligence that belies the bluster, blue collar, and blue language. You get swept along listening to barroom bravado, and he’ll hit you with the perfect analogy or metaphor or nuanced take on the human condition in passing.
Impressive stuff. And damn funny, to boot. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some catching up to do.